Solstice Sunset

Powhatan Creek at sunset on Winter Solstice.

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Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, that time of year when days are short and nights are long.  Our day in Williamsburg, Virginia, began at 7:17 AM with sunrise, and ended at 4:53 PM as the sun set.  Our day was nine hours and 36 minutes long today.

But, as I look at a table of sunrise and sunset times, I notice that yesterday, and everyday since last Sunday, has been exactly the same length.  The difference is that the sunrise was a minute or two later, but so was the sunset!  In fact,  our earliest sunset of the year, at 4:49 PM, occurred on December 2 this year.  The sun has been setting a minute or two later each day since the 12th, when sunset occurred at 4:50 PM.

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Sunrise continues to come a bit later each day.  Today the sun rose at 7:17, but by Saturday it will rise at 7:18, and on Christmas Monday it  won’t appear until 7:19 AM.  The sun will continue rising a bit later each morning until December 31,  when it rises at 7:21 AM.

It isn’t until the 13th of January that the rising sun reverses itself and comes up a minute earlier, at 7:20.  By January 13, the day will have grown to nine hours and 50 minutes, as the sun is setting at 4:50 once again.

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Each day between now, and December 27, will continue on at exactly nine hours and 36 minutes.  That means that we will have a run of 11 days of ‘the shortest day of the year,’ of only nine hours and 36 minutes of daylight.  As the sun sets a minute later, so the sun also rises a minute later, in perfect choreography, until December 28, when the day grows by a minute to nine hours and 37 minutes at last.  On New Year’s Day, our daylight will have grown to nine hours and 38 minutes, with sunrise at seven 21 and sunset at 4:59.

Perhaps this very long run of short days and worsening weather is why we need the brightness of the  holidays to cheer our souls and help us through this extended period of darkness.  I feel grateful for every light display I see along the way, as darkness gathers in late afternoon, and the wind bites with cold.

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I relish these early evenings, too.  Watching the sky turn bright with sunset color, and seeing our beautiful trees silhouetted against the deepening sky is a breathtakingly beautiful way to end our day.  Except it isn’t the end of the day, is it?

The early sunset may send us indoors, but we enjoy the long, quiet winter evenings together.  We may hear the owls calling to one another in the ravine.  I make tea, fix snacks, and work on holiday chores.   I paint and sculpt, read and crochet.  It may be long past midnight before I give up the day for sleep, knowing that morning will dawn quite late on the morrow!

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We are in the darkest part of the year: Yule.  And that has been amplified this week with the new moon on Monday.  Settling comfortably into darkness, we gather with friends and loved ones, forming our intentions and making our wishes in anticipation of the year’s turning and return of longer days of sunlight.

Some light a Yule log and keep it burning until the days grow longer once again.  Some light candles to warm winter’s long nights, or light lamps.  Here, we string Christmas lights and enjoy their nightly glow.  We keep them up and burning deep into January, when we can feel the year has turned and days have grown longer once again.

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Tonight, we went out to watch the Solstice sunset.  We left soon after four, camera in hand, and enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon drive on the Colonial Parkway.  We were driving west towards Jamestown, and the sun was brightly blazing even as it dipped towards the horizon before us.  I had to wear my shades and still shield my eyes against its intensity.

We may have made a detour…. there may have been mint ice cream involved…

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Suffice it to say, we were running a bit close when we headed back to the Parkway to photograph the setting sun.  Seconds count, and that fiery orb had already dipped below the James River before we were in position.  But the sky was still ablaze, and the new moon hanging in a pristine sky, growing brighter with each passing minute.

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite days of the year.  We have celebrated this day since my own little one was tiny, with special food, and gifts, and music and merry-making.  It marks the passage from weeks of preparation to conscious celebration of the waning of one year and fresh beginnings of the next.  I envy friends born on this special day, and always keep it as the beginning of our Christmas celebrations.

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My mind turns to The Holly King of legend, who shines brightly in our barren, wintery woods.  Aglow in bright red berries, hollies shine through mist and snow and gloomy winter days.  Winter is their prime time, when the oaks and other hardwoods have gone dormant and dropped their leaves.

I wish you a happy Solstice and a Merry Yule.

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These are special days, and I hope you keep them well.  With love shining brightly in our hearts, we journey through these last days of 2017 and find our way into a new solar year.  May peace and happiness journey with you, and may 2018 offer you fresh possibilities, new opportunities and abundant joy.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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The James River

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WPC: Elemental

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For this week’s challenge, explore the classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire.
How do you capture something invisible like air, or the movement of water? Or, more personally, is there a place you go to feel connected to the earth?
Take a moment to explore these elements, in or out of balance, together or individually, as you pick up your camera this week.”
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The ancients teach us that originally there was only one energy, one creative force.  It was, even before the light.

And from its desire to know itself, everything else was created. Every thing we know was explosively generated from the one.

This original energy still animates everything, every element that is; even our own knowingness. 

The continual joy of creation comes from the interplay of all of the elements; every bit of fire and earth, water and air.   These essential elements structure even our own imagination.

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Try to take away even one of the elements, and what is left? Some balance will be restored ….

Our life depends on the interplay of fire, water, air, minerals, and the unique animation we call spirit.

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“I’ve always known, on a purely intellectual level,
that our separateness and isolation are an illusion.
We’re all made of the same thing—
the blown-out pieces of matter formed in the fires of dead stars.
I’d just never felt that knowledge in my bones until that moment,
there, with you, and it’s because of you.”
.
Blake Crouch
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Every particle and spark is important; a part of the whole. Every one of us is important:  a part of the whole; elemental.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Elemental

Three Herons

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We drove to Jamestown this weekend, and were quite delighted to spot more herons than usual along the way.  Their plumage blends quite subtly, this time of year, with the marshes they frequent; and so it takes a sharp eye, sometimes, to even notice them.

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Oftentimes we simply point them out to one another.  We don’t break the flow of our journey for a photo-stop.

And we are always pleased to see these most Zen-like birds.  Their calm and detachment belie a deep self-confidence, perhaps, that they will remain master of their circumstance.

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Where we find herons, we assume the water is fairly pure.  That is often said of rivers where Eagles nest.  They only live where the environment can support them in good health.

Eagles, herons, geese and ducks all make the James River and its James City County creeks their home.

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Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fils

Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fills the top of the Cypress tree on the far left.

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The herons remain alert.  They live in the moment, sensing all unfolding around them.  They always respond as I move closer to them with my clicking, flashing camera and not so light step.  And although they may wade further from shore, they rarely take flight at my approach.

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We admire these regal birds, and watch for them along the creeks and marshes near our home.

Finding them in abundance, as we did on Sunday afternoon, lends a certain luster to a late winter afternoon.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Altered Perspective…. ?

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The world looks a bit odd in December, don’t you think?  The newly bare landscape can sometimes surprise and delight us.

Here are just a few clics I captured earlier this week.

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Can you figure out what you’re seeing?

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“Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star,

the glittering herald of the day.

Heresy is the last and best thought.

It is the perpetual New World, the unknown sea,

toward which the brave all sail.

It is the eternal horizon of progress.

Heresy extends the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.

Heresy is a cradle; orthodoxy, a coffin.”

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Robert G. Ingersoll

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“Watching the infinite horizons gives you infinite dreams,

infinite ideas, infinite paths!

Choose a great target

and then you will see that great instruments will appear

for you to reach that target!”


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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“In the most surreal, the most joyful,

the most beautiful, the most intense,

the most alive moments of life,

you are absorbed into the horizon

which is at its most invisible,

elusive, perfect blend of sky and sea.”

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Connie Kerbs

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  New Horizon

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Sunday Dinner: Flow

August 19, 2016 birds 008

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“Have you also learned that secret from the river;

that there is no such thing as time?”

That the river is everywhere at the same time,

at the source and at the mouth,

at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current,

in the ocean and in the mountains,

everywhere and that the present only exists for it,

not the shadow of the past

nor the shadow of the future.”

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Hermann Hesse

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August 10, 2016 River at dusk 048

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“Water does not resist. Water flows.

When you plunge your hand into it,

all you feel is a caress.

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you.

But water always goes where it wants to go,

and nothing in the end can stand against it.

Water is patient.

Dripping water wears away a stone.

Remember that, my child.

Remember you are half water.

If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it.

Water does.”

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Margaret Atwood

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January 19, 2016 Cold 022

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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November 28, 2015 fall color 012

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“Life in us is like the water in a river.”


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Henry David Thoreau

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Oregon's beautiful coast, just south of Depoe Bay.

WPC: Fun

Lincoln City, Oregon

Lincoln City, Oregon

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How can there be fun, in August, without water? 

Whether we head to a favorite beach, go sailing, wade in the river or fish in a shady creek; water draws us, soothing us with its endless movement.  It cools us, calms us; and makes everything more fun!

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Powhatan Creek, James City County Virginia

Powhatan Creek,  James City County Virginia

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Fun!

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Beverly Beach, OR

Beverly Beach, OR, where even the shore birds have great fun in the waves.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016
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Beverly  Beach, OR

Beverly Beach, OR just below the coast Highway 101, a great place to get away, have fun, and relax!

Chasing Sunset

August 10, 2016 River at dusk 042

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We chased the sunset last night, along the long stretch of the Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg to Jamestown.  It was the best of summer, with frog song and balmy breezes, families wading along the river and herons perching along the shore.

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College Creek at Archer's Hope, where Captain Gabriel Archer wanted to settle the first colonists in 1607.

College Creek at Archer’s Hope, where Captain Gabriel Archer wanted to settle the first colonists in 1607.

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A deep, quiet green has settled on the landscape.  Abundant summer rain has kept it all alive and growing to lush proportions.

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The reeds stand thickly in every creek and marsh.  Red winged blackbirds dip and wheel, chasing armies of flying insects, and perhaps one another, across the creek as daylight fades.

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The setting sun gilds the sky and water, glinting from the reeds’ seed heads, filling the air itself with its golden glow.

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This is August in Virginia.  A time to slow down and savor summer just as it begins to slip away towards autumn.

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The days have grown noticeably shorter, subtly warning us of the waning year.  Boaters and fisherman brave our mosquitoes to drink in the river, the air, the moment.  And so did we.

Leaving our air conditioned cave behind for this heavy August evening, we drove through deep green forests and over acres of marshland; smelling the newly mown sweetgrass and briny marsh.

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The air remains hot and heavy on an evening like this, despite the gathering dusk.  Clouds pile up on the horizon, but no rain follows.  The river is high, swelling every creek and rivulet, moving swiftly in its course.

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August 10, 2016 River at dusk 040~

What a lovely night to be alive.  We watched for deer and rabbits on the roadsides, eagles and herons by the river.  We saw a turtle beside the road and armies of Canada geese gathering together, somehow knowing the season soon will turn again.

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The bats had taken flight by the time we headed home.  Swooping and diving above the road, above the fields, above the trees, they filled the sky as darkness gathered.  We couldn’t hear them, but we saw their utter delight in the feast.

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We are surrounded by abundance.  We are surrounded by the ongoing mystery play of life.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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“When one tunes in into nature’s frequency,
life becomes change,
change becomes hope!”
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Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
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August 10, 2016 River at dusk 058

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Consumption

June 3, 2016 Jamestown 024~

“Mindful consumption is the object of this precept.

We are what we consume.

If we look deeply into the items

that we consume every day,

we will come to know our own nature very well.

We have to eat, drink, consume,

but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy

our bodies and our consciousness,

showing ingratitude toward our ancestors,

our parents, and future generations.”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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June 3, 2016 Jamestown 019

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“I vow to ingest only items that preserve well-being,

peace, and joy in my body and my consciousness…

Practicing a diet is the essence of this precept.

Wars and bombs are the products of our consciousness

individually and collectively. Our collective consciousness

has so much violence, fear, craving, and hatred in it,

it can manifest in wars and bombs.

The bombs are the product of our fear…

Removing the bombs is not enough.

Even if we could transport all the bombs

to a distant planet, we would still not be safe,

because the roots of the wars and the bombs

are still intact in our collective consciousness.

Transforming the toxins in our collective consciousness

is the true way to uproot war .”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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“We convince ourselves that even our shameless waste,

our unchecked consumption and our appalling ignorance

of anyplace in the world except our own little corner

must continue–or they win!

No, when you become smarter and less gluttonous,

you win. We all win!”

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Bill Maher

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Drink your tea slowly and reverently,

as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves –

slowly, evenly,

without rushing toward the future.”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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June 3, 2016 Jamestown 034~

Water

 

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Icy molten glass dances

And flows on windblown ripples;

Rising like liquid sky.

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Wetness, swirling in

Murky translucence, blurs

Borders of creek and land.

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Eternal mirror

Cloaking what lies beneath with

Life’s pageant of light.

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In response to Writing 201: Water Haiku

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Wild-Life

January 4, 2014 garden 029

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“Patience, he thought.

So much of this was patience – waiting,

and thinking and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

Gary Paulsen,  from Hatchet

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January 4, 2014 garden 021

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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